At 19, he won a local school board seat. His first civics lesson? Age discrimination

Triston Ezidore, 19, participates in a ceremony at the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education meeting.
Triston Ezidore, 19, participates in a ceremony at the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education meeting in Los Angeles. The USC sophomore launched a campaign last summer to run for the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education and won.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The protesters gathered early on a Friday morning in front of Culver City High School.

They were calling for increased safety precautions from the school district after multiple fights were reported on campus. One protester, captured on a livestream, asked where “the 19-year-old” is.

“Yeah, where’s Triston?” another jeered. ”He’s probably smoking weed. He’s probably hotboxing with all the other kids in that bathroom.”

They were asking about Triston Ezidore, the recently elected 19-year-old member of the Culver City Unified School District Board of Education, believed to be the youngest elected official in Los Angeles County. They were intimating that he’d be off with his friends, filling a stall with pot smoke, ignoring the needs of the district’s more than 7,000 students.

Triston Ezidore participates in a board meeting at City Hall in Culver City.
Triston Ezidore participates in a board meeting at City Hall in March in Culver City.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Ezidore placed second in a heated school board election in November. With three seats up for grabs, he won nearly 17% of the vote, making him not only the youngest, but also the first Black man elected to the Culver City Unified school board.

But even in a progressive community such as Culver City, population just over 40,000, the position has not come without challenges. As part of a wave of Generation Z youth running for and winning office, Ezidore has dealt with angry comments from residents, disparaging him for his age and, at times, his race.

In the same election that vaulted Ezidore into office, the city narrowly voted down a measure that would have lowered the city’s voting age to 16. Young people are often told to take action when they complain about lawmakers making decisions that affect their futures. Yet when they participate, they can face criticism for being too young, too inexperienced, too naive to lead the systems that shape their lives.

“To me this speaks to power, who has it, and who isn’t willing to give it up,” he said.

At board meetings, Ezidore has used his speaking time to call out the ageist comments he has received since joining the board.

A close-up frame of a lapel pin that reads "youth organizer."
Ezidore faces and speaks up against ageism and racism.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

In an email to the entire school board, one Culver City resident declared the district has “gone steadily downhill” and demanded that two school board members step down while blasting Ezidore for even running for office.

“The 19-year-old needs to go because he is 19 and should never have been even suggested let alone elected,” the person wrote.

In a March speech, Ezidore spoke directly to students listening in. He leaned forward, his words flowing smoothly as he read from a prepared statement.

“You deserve a life ... that is not defined by your productivity or your chosen work, or what age you enter that work,” he said. “Students and young people are the backbone of our democracy, our communities and our nation builders.”


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Just four months into his term on the school board, Ezidore views the negative comments as part of a larger effort to discredit young people who take that leap into elected office.

“It’s a system that has forever counted out young people, and I’m here to say I’m not just a student voice. I’m not the student board member,” he said, “I’m a board member that just happens to be 19.”


Every Tuesday, Ezidore shows up to class at USC like any other sophomore, wearing a hoodie and jeans while attending lectures on art and society in Latin America and others on the politics of the 1960s.

In one political science class during a discussion about money and politics, a professor threw out a question — who knew how many cities were in L.A. County?

After spending months campaigning for the Culver City school board, a process that involved filing paperwork to run, fundraising, campaigning and understanding city boundaries, he knew L.A. County politics intimately. He raised his hand and offered the correct answer — 88.

On the first and fourth Tuesday of the month, Ezidore trades in his hoodie for a white button-down and a suit. He puts away his textbooks and packs binders detailing the agenda, talking points and documents for the evening board meetings, where he serves as clerk.


He saves time going between USC’s campus and Culver City Unified meetings by changing in his Volkswagen convertible. He hasn’t had time this semester yet to join an extracurricular activity or club, but he said he’s hoping to attend a Trojan Democrats meeting when his schedule allows.

Ezidore gets dressed for a board meeting at his home in Los Angeles.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Ezidore, 6 feet 3, carries himself confidently and isn’t shy about his ambitions to excel. Already, he’s done interviews with Spectrum News’ Alex Cohen, the Argonaut, a Westside publication, and USC’s Annenberg Media. He admits, though, that he hasn’t told most of his professors or any classmates about his role as a school board member.

The son of Jamaican and Vietnamese immigrants, Ezidore was born in St. Paul, Minn., and lived in Sherman Oaks and Las Vegas before moving to Culver City with his family. Growing up, Ezidore said, he used to dream of going to law school and becoming a lawyer.

After graduating from Culver City High in 2021, Ezidore moved across the country to attend Syracuse University. But he found himself watching Culver City school board meetings, following issues he championed as a high school student.

At a certain point, he said, he realized that if he wanted to serve on the school board he had to move back home. So he transferred to USC and launched his campaign in May 2022. He earned endorsements from four of the five board members, including Kelly Kent, who encouraged him to run.


Not long after the December swearing-in ceremony, Ezidore began pushing for a resolution that acknowledged the district’s past treatment of its Black students, which he knew firsthand, having gone through the Culver City school system from 10th through 12th grade.

Dressed in a suit, Triston Ezidore walks down a columnway, looking up.
Triston Ezidore arrives for a board meeting at City Hall in March in Culver City.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

He introduced the Black Student Achievement Plan, which acknowledges that Black students in the district are underrepresented in honors and gifted programs and overrepresented in suspension rates. To Ezidore, the plan’s most important role is acknowledging Black students are not reading at their grade level and committing the district to prioritizing their academic success.

Kent, 46, was first elected to the board in 2015 and got to know Ezidore as a high school student who frequently spoke at school board meetings. She knew him as a thoughtful young person who understood firsthand how the district had served, but also failed, him and students like him.

“People do have legitimate concerns about a 19-year-old serving on the board. I don’t dismiss those,” said Kent, a neuroscientist. But the school board had always wanted to make sure young people were being included at the table. And here was someone who brought a young person’s perspective in the same way a teacher or parent could.

“In the end, even if there are caveats to him being quote ‘ready,’ what he brings is so valuable and so unparalleled, and to me, that outweighs that,” Kent said.


The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s Office, which is responsible for conducting local elections, could not confirm whether 19 is the youngest age at which a person has ever been elected in the county. But Ezidore said he was contacted by Sebastian Cazares, who at 20 was elected to the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees.

Cazares passed on the unofficial honor of being L.A. County’s youngest elected official to Ezidore. He is not the youngest in the state, however — in Northern California’s Solano County, residents elected an 18-year-old to the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.

Like Ezidore, Cazares said he faced ageism and felt isolated being a young politician.

“I had people belittle me, I had people call me a kid, a child,” Cazares said. “The actual process of being a policymaker ... where you’re the first one, the first member of Gen Z to be in these circles, a lot of times you just feel like this odd person out.”

Sebastian Cazares
(Fernando Cazares Jr.)

Cazares, now 22, said he’s not sure whether he will stay in politics after his term ends next year.

“It’s taken a huge toll on me, and I feel like it’s aged me years,” he said.

His advice for young people seeking office? Put your health first. Be brave and bold. Shake things up.

“You’re going to be surrounded by a system that historically wasn’t built for us,” said Cazares, who now holds the title of youngest Latino elected in L.A. County. “As long as you’re rooted in your community, or you know who you are, you’ll be able to find your balance.”

Culver City Unified Supt. Quoc Tran is aware that some staff members still see Ezidore as a student. He has had to remind community members and district employees at events and board meetings to treat him with the same respect as other board members.

“I get calls from members of the community, ‘How dare you tell us how to address people,’” Tran said. But he’s adamant that they use his title — Board Member Ezidore — when addressing him in his official capacity. “You have to stop seeing Ezidore as a recently graduated 19-year-old.”

Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, has come of age during a time of frequent mass shootings, the COVID-19 pandemic, a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and racial inequity. For some, activism has led to political office. At 25, Maxwell Frost became Congress’ first Gen Z U.S. representative when he was elected in November to serve Florida’s 10th Congressional District, which includes Orlando. During the November midterm election, youth turnout helped shaped critical battleground contests.

Standing and smiling, Triston Ezidore speaks with another board member during a meeting.
Triston Ezidore speaks with another board member during a meeting at City Hall in March in Culver City.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

As a senior, Ezidore led two student town halls to discuss mental health, racial inequities and sexual misconduct as well as school reopenings.

Ezidore’s stepmother, Fatima Harmi, who lives in Palms, said even as a high school student, he was not afraid to speak up against the school board’s decisions, such as advocating for keeping schools closed longer during the pandemic.

“He knows firsthand what changes are needed to happen in order for the students to get a better education,” Harmi said.

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But sometimes, Ezidore’s passion reveals his youth. In championing the Black Student Achievement Plan, he also became a target for critics, who claimed the plan came at the “expense of the rest of our kids.” During a February board meeting, he became emotional as he fought against the assertion.

“Since I’ve been on this body, we have passed several, several, several student achievement plans, several resolutions and not once did we ever hear anyone say ‘what about the rest of our kids,’” Ezidore said. “It is only when we are talking about being unequivocal about our Black students does it then raise the question, ‘What about the rest of them?’


“Well, I have to say that that is rooted in anti-Blackness, that is rooted in anti-Black children. And I am not going to stay silent [during] these attacks against our students who are just trying to get by.”


On a Thursday in February, Village Well Books & Coffee was buzzing with people gathered for a Black History Month event. Ezidore, clad in a maroon suit, zipped around as he prepared for the night.

Culver City Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) shared passages from their favorite books by Black authors, celebrating the progress and work that needed to be done for Black Americans in the U.S. Ezidore moderated the panel.

To open the event, Culver City High student Leah Johnson read a poem she wrote in her ethnic studies class about systemic racism Black Americans have faced. She spoke of Black men killed by police, of how her skin color labeled her as inferior before she could discover her own identity.

Ezidore was moved to tears. A teacher at Culver City High “told me how powerful [the poem] was,” he said, pausing between tears. “But I couldn’t have expected that.”

In a majority-white city, the event offered a space for vulnerability such as Ezidore’s, who has not shied away from being emotional in public. While he is the first Black man to serve on the school board, he has found support among other Black politicians including McMorrin, Culver City’s first Black female vice mayor and lone woman of color on the City Council. And McMorrin, in turn, said she was in awe of Ezidore’s leadership as a school board member.


“I’m so proud of my little brother and I stayed up till midnight … and watched him shepherd this Black Student Achievement Plan,” McMorrin said.

Wearing a suit, Triston Ezidore walks through the front door of a building with a sign saying "council chambers."
Ezidore arrives for a board meeting at City Hall in March in Culver City.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Like a seasoned politician, Ezidore sidestepped a direct answer when asked about whether he sees himself staying in politics or pursuing higher office.

“Running for school board was so challenging that I don’t even think that I can begin to even start the thought of running for another office,” he said. “But I am thinking of how I can be of service to my community. And now that’s on the school board, and that’s where 110% of my energy and focus in mind and strategy is going to.

“Four years [from now], if I’ve been called to serve a different capacity, if, you know, there’s another place that needs a champion,” he said, “then we’ll address that when that call happens. Or when we get there.”